Methodenzentrum Sozialwissenschaften

The social construction of border zones: A comparison of two geopolitical cases


Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rosenthal (Georg-August Universität Göttingen),
Cooperation partners: Dr. Efrat Ben-Zeev & Dr. Nir Gazit (Ruppin Academic Center, Emek Hefer)
Founded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)
Duration of the project: 1.3.2014- 28.2.2017;
extended until: 30.8.2017
extended until: 30.11.2018

Pilot study by Efrat Ben-Zeev and Nir Gazit sponsored from 2012-2014 by The Harry S. Truman Research Institute Grant, Hebrew University and the Ruppin Academic Center)



The project examines the social construction of border zones and border activities as well as the processes by which they are transformed. In our selected cases, the borders gradually changed in recent years from being relatively porous for irregular migrants to their almost complete closure. In both cases, though, the border is made porous again through the pressure exercised by migrants and smugglers. We will focus on two structurally very different geopolitical contexts: on the one hand the border regions between African countries and Spain - the maritime border between West Africa and the Canary islands and the border region between Morocco and the Spanish exclaves Ceuta and Melilla - and on the other hand, the border region between Egypt and Israel. This contrastive comparison will help to reconstruct similarities and differences in the construction of border zones and in the practical reality of their implementation - the 'doing' of borders. The centers of attention will be, firstly, on the subjective experiences of members of different groupings which are involved in 'border activities' (migrants, policing forces, NGOs, smugglers, inhabitants of border regions, etc.) and the processes of the genesis of their perspectives; secondly on the figurations between these groupings which have unequal power chances and, thirdly, on their concrete interactions in everyday life. Apart from the ethnographic research on current experiences of actors and on face-to-face interactions between members of different groupings, we are also interested in the reconstruction of divergent collective, family and life histories resp. of stocks of knowledge of illegalized/irregular migrants in regard to different border areas.

Furthermore, we will ask how informal (or unofficial) practices of actors (those practices besides formalized practices of governmental and non-governmental organizations and groupings) are interwoven with formal migration policies and legal frameworks.